Is insect-based dog food the way forward?

October 1, 2019

There’s no escaping the climate change conversation and the need to eat less meat to save our planet. Pets are estimated to eat 20% of the world’s meat. This means their contribution to the increase in greenhouse gases can’t be ignored. Could insect-based dog food help to provide the answer? 

The words ‘dog and bone’ go together like ‘strawberries and cream’. They have co-existed in a sentence for as long as dogs have existed as pets. But contrary to popular belief, dogs are omnivores rather than carnivores. This means they can eat and survive on a range of diets of meat and plant-based origin. Unlike cats, which are obligate carnivores, dogs don’t need to eat meat to survive. 

In fact dogs can be fed a well-balanced vegetarian diet, provided it has been formulated to meet their nutritional needs. A strictly vegan diet is more difficult as dogs may miss out on some important nutrients. 

Change needed

Scientists say there needs to be as much as a 90% reduction in meat consumption in western countries, as well as significant changes to the way we farm, if dangerous climate change is to be avoided. Food production causes considerable environmental damage through greenhouse gases from livestock, deforestation and water shortages. It has been found that producing a kilogram of beef is equivalent to the same level of CO2 emissions by a European car every 250 miles. It also burns enough energy to keep a 100-watt bulb burning for around 20 days. The take-out message is loud and clear. One of the most effective ways to reduce our carbon footprint is to eat less meat and diary. 

The global movement to eat less meat has seen more people turning to a plant-based diet.  Now insect-based food is starting to make its way onto our plates as a protein-rich alternative to meat. Insects are very nutritious and low in fat, and a healthy alternative to meat, albeit may not sound particularly appetising. Sainsbury’s was the first UK retailer to brave the way forward in 2018. They introduced insect-based foods into its stores in the form of smokey BBQ flavoured cricket snacks. It is now predicted that insect-based food will become an $8 billion global business by 2030

Eco-friendly dog food

So what about our dogs – will they soon be tucking into insects too? In fact, it won’t be soon. It’s now. One pet-food manufacturer, Yora, is leading the way in the UK with this meat-free alternative, which is good for our pets and good for the planet too. 

Production of Yora’s dog food requires around 45 times fewer resources than a traditional meat diet and, ultimately, the kind of reductions in carbon emissions that would get a thumbs up from Greta Thunberg. Yora uses black soldier fly larvae in its products. These are more of a chubby worm than a creepy-crawly insect, and are rich in protein.

This emerging dog-food diet has also been warmly received by the British Veterinary Association. They say that a properly formulated insect-based dog food would provide dogs with the nutritionally-balanced diet they need. 

Whilst some dog owners may feel a bit squeamish at the thought of feeding themselves or their pet an insect-based diet, it’s clear that urgent action is needed. Will you be giving insect-based food a go to reduce your dog’s carbon paw-print?